The Turn of the Screw

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Author: Henry James
Published: 1898
Language: English
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 81.5
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 16,607 3938

A neurotic governess, believing that the two children in her care are being haunted by malevolent ghosts, seeks to exorcize them. One of the great intellectual ghost stories of all time.

Show Excerpt

He sprang to his feet again. "Yes--tomorrow. Now I must go to bed. Good night." And quickly catching up a candlestick, he left us slightly bewildered. From our end of the great brown hall we heard his step on the stair; whereupon Mrs. Griffin spoke. "Well, if I don't know who she was in love with, I know who HE was."

"She was ten years older," said her husband.

"Raison de plus--at that age! But it's rather nice, his long reticence."

"Forty years!" Griffin put in.

"With this outbreak at last."

"The outbreak," I returned, "will make a tremendous occasion of Thursday night;" and everyone so agreed with me that, in the light of it, we lost all attention for everything else. The last story, however incomplete and like the mere opening of a serial, had been told; we handshook and "candlestuck," as somebody said, and went to bed.

I knew the next day that a letter containing the key had, by the first post, gone off to his London apartments; but in spite of--or perhaps just on account


Average Rating of 3.4 from 5 reviews: ****
Rob Reader

Henry James is a confused and often tortured soul with a variety of conflicting, inconsistent and often surprisingly bland ideas which he mixes in a mishmash which he hopes will delude his reader into believing it a contrapuntal masterpiece. If he can say something well in ten words he will use forty instead.

He was unable to remain in any college or university being dismissed or resigning regularly. His peculiar and perhaps homosexual relationship with the sculptor Hendrik Anderson and with the novelist Howie Sturgis was looked upon with surprise and revulsion in the more restrictive society of his time and there is no evidence that he ever had a romantic or sexual relationship with a woman. James did however have a fondness for several members of his family and as a youth is remembered to have said he would do nothing to shame them.

The major draw and perhaps only redeeming element in this novel is the battle within the protagonist's mind as to the nature of the ghost. Is it a genuine ghost or is it a demon wholly within his mind which tests, vexes and threatens the protagonist. This might be sufficient cause to read the book were it not for the seemingly endless verbiage which clings to almost every page like moss in a swamp.

I must here admit that I read this book about 25 years ago and found it much more painful than the broken shoulder I was experiencing at the time. I will therefore not subject myself to this literary abuse again.

I give it two stars. I give any reader who completes the book 4 stars for effort.

Jesus Galaz

Extremely wordy and BORING as few books can be.
It's not completely "empty" (superficial) though.


Both subtle and compelling, The Turn of the Screw has haunted me since I first read it. I envy you the experience of reading this story for the first time.

This is one of the greatest stories of the supernatural ever written in the English language - or is it? Maybe it's one of the greatest psychological dramas ever written. The fact that readers are still debating how this story ends and what it means is a testament to James' extraordinary subtlety.

Henry James layers ideas one on top of another the way impressionist painters layered color. In my opinion, his "run on sentences" are an attempt to deliver a whole impression to the reader at one time. Please don't be put off by this. James' wasn't trying to be "artsy" or to fool his readers - he was trying to communicate all of his impressions and ideas to his readers. His stories are rich and textured but always carried along by a strong plot and compelling characters. This book is a classic for a reason.

Abby Olurin

Very wordy at times and many times hard to follow. Also, quite a bit of run on sentences. However, interesting and at many times compelling.



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